Better Late Than Never, How to Motivate

One of the most difficult things about being an educator is standing in front of a classroom and feeling helpless. Some students just don’t want to learn. Many of them are simply looking to get by, and lazily claw their way to some sort of passing grade. Students are disinterested and unwilling to put forth the effort to realize their potential.

Teaching Students to Motivate Themselves

This is a very tiring process to go through, for educators. Many times, they will give up on a few students who they see are not making any progress over a period of time. There is only so much you can do with a person, no matter the age or circumstances. In the short-term, yes – you can get students to try and go for a specific goal. But in the long run? It is almost impossible.

You cannot change a person. Real change comes from inside. However, there are ways and means for you to provide the correct tools, space, and atmosphere necessary for genuine self-improvement and motivation on the part of those you are trying to educate.

The key is to learn what would make this individual discover his or her own strengths, and work with them to increase their viability and influence on the student’s overall academic performance.

The word itself, “motive”, means drive. It is a movement which occurs within, and propels an individual to behave a certain way. How can anyone be expected to influence someone else’s drive – a drive which is meant to exist inside of the one being influenced?

It is a difficult question, no doubt about it. Many researchers have puzzled over that very question. Practices such as reward and punishment, have been put into action before. They proved to help people in a short-term timeframe, but not in the long-term. Researchers found that such behavior can be destructive over a long period of time, since it makes the student feel like a rat in a maze. It is okay to give bonuses for a job well done, but studies have shown that such incentives cannot define the nature of an academic relationship. It may very well hurt the student’s sense of autonomy and worth.


Several ways of giving students the proper balance:

Give praise for specific actions, not general words of encouragement: When you give praise in a very vague statement, students may avoid taking risks or trying harder for fear of failing.

Building relationships, and talking with your students individually: Getting a sense of who they are as people, their hopes and dreams, can also help make them more self-aware. This can definitely encourage them to focus more on themselves and their goals.

Minimizing lecturing time in front of the class, and engaging them more, can aid in opening up their minds to explore further within themselves: Promoting healthy discussion and encouraging cooperative learning in the classroom is usually more effective than the older ways, in which a teacher would bore a classroom to tears with ongoing, nonstop lecturing. This is not to say that teachers need to put on a show, but it does mean that teachers should put in the extra effort (when possible) and make the classroom more open to possibilities.

This could be your student, unless you motivate them of course.

Promoting healthy discussion could keep students awake in life and in the classroom.

Another method is pretty straightforward. Show your students the advantages of getting a good education: You may choose to do this through a slideshow of graphs and tables, or alternatively through “show and tell” type classes, in which a guest speaker comes to talk to the class. People with higher degrees make more money. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but overall the statistics do not lie. Educated individuals earn more, and that a very clear incentive to become self-motivated. Although, this one is kind of out there, since the students may not be thinking so far ahead, and some would even go so far as to say that K-12 students should not be bothered with such matters until nearing graduation. Furthermore, different schools have different systems of appraisal, and different definitions of what doing well in school really means.


Ultimately, a teacher’s goal is two provide information on the one hand, and develop the students’ thinking abilities on the other. It is a fine line sometimes, but some of the finest teachers in the world have found that balance. While some students will remember certain teachers as ones who piled on worthless pieces of information, some teachers will always remembered by their students as the ones who taught them how to think for themselves.

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